Monthly Archives: August 2014

Let’s Be Silly: ASCII Cow In Your Terminal

After a very stressful week here on the farm, I decided to actively look for cute little ditties that are already installed in Linux Mint.

Spending so much time in a shell terminal, I was pleased to find a lovely little ASCII cow who will say whatever you tell her. Indeed, you can even have the cow give you your fortune cookies or tips of the day, when you open a new terminal.

Cowsay ascii cow


After you open a new shell terminal, just type the following:

~ $   cowsay Hello World

And say hello to your shell terminal cow!

It’s quite a versatile cow, and I found a blog that will take you through some of her abilities. You can find that info HERE

Personally, we just enjoyed the old-time ASCII graphics. It took us back to our BBS days. Anyone else out there ever use the old ANSI Animator from back in the DOS 2.11 days? Good times!


Frogs Looking For IT Work

At 5:30am this morning, I’m awakened by my bedside computer that one of my servers was off-line. The server, an embedded system controller that is used to control my video routing switcher for my goat website.

Dragging myself out of bed, I get dressed and go out in the rain to my office, which is a stand alone building next to my barn.

Opening the door and switching on the light, I am greeted by a huge, green tree frog. The frog has managed to unplug the Cat5 cable from the controller and was now happily hanging from the now dangling cable. How on earth he managed that I don’t know!

I shooed the frog away from the controller and plugged the now slimy cable back into the controller and managed to snap a photo of the frog where it ended up a moment later, on a video distribution amp.

Frog in the office

Frog in the office

You just never know what might give you a networking headache!

Non Computer Related Fun This Week

I’ve spent the last 2 days doing component-level service on my 6-year-old powered wheelchair. When you live your life in a wheelchair, you fast have to remember all the stuff you can not do when your chair is broken! My goats were very upset when it wasn’t me feeding them dinner last night.

My odyssey started with a quick run for some water softener salt. 2 miles from home I got caught in a huge downpour. The rain was not on radar as I left, it just popped up as I got on the road. Not that unusual for Florida. Deciding it would be best to do that errand another day, I went home. Turning on my chair to exit my van, I had power, but the chair was blinking out random error codes.  I love computers, but why must they be in wheelchairs!

Calling my bride in the house to bring my manual chair, I got into it, then we managed to drag my non functional chair into the house.

I’d been out working on the farm  before my ill-fated trip. I’d been rained on several times, using a chair that is supposed to be water tight, I never worried about it.

Turns out the rubber membrane that the control buttons are molded into, had cracked in the depression of the button. This allowed water over time to leach onto the motherboard of the controller. The highly mineralized water started leaving deposits on the motherboard, under and around the processor, surface mounted to the motherboard.

Oh, why could you not be in a socket!

I did get a laugh though. When I got the controller open, a nice sticker greeted me that said, “Made in England.”   This of course brought back fond memories of an IT Crowd episode where everything that was breaking, was made in England.

Back to my controller, with my surface mount rework station, a large magnifying glass and several hours worth of work, I was able to clean up the mother board and bring it back into working order.

I’m fortunate that I can do all my own repairs, both mechanical as well as electronic. Checking on the web found that there were several places that would be happy to sell me a new controller, for $1200.  The local wheelchair place assured me that the controller was DOA and that replacing it was my only option. I couldn’t get them to agree to a friendly wager that I thought otherwise.

So while I only had a 24 hour period of upset, who I really feel bad for are the thousands of people dependant on mobility devices, who get ripped off for every stupid part they need. I mean, simple caster wheels for my chair are $90 from the company. I found better wheels on Amazon for $20. Had I let a local mobility store do my repairs this week, I’d have been out $1500.

My point, if you have skills in electronics or mechanics, think about who you might be able to help if they have issues with their mobility devices.

There is no way I could have afforded to pay for these repairs, and insurance companies have made it so hard to get a new powered wheelchair now, it’s just not even worth trying to fight with them anymore. (Mostly thanks to a couple of huge companies hawking them on TV for years, flooding the market with chairs for people who likely didn’t even need them!)

I’ll be scouring garage sales for a backup chair in the coming weeks!



More Linux Printing Tools

I’m sure you are familiar with the standard Linux printer setup, found in the Menu:

Printer Setup

Printer Setup

But did you know that you can also access your local or network printer right from your browser?

Web based printer setup

Web based printer setup

It’s easy, just open your browser and head to http://localhost:631  to access your printer driver directly! This is quite handy, since your browser is probably open all the time anyway.

Because we use a networked laser printer, it makes it easy to check on, or modify print jobs from any computer on the farm running Linux.

Using the extensive built-in help files and tutorials, you can even learn how to control your printer from the command line. This is handy if you have used SSH into another computer on your network, and wish to print directly from that computer.


Tools: Dictionary Client

An often overlooked tool in your menu, is the Dictionary client. Accessing primarily the dictionary server, it can also use any other available dictionary server if English is not your primary language.

Dictionary client

Dictionary client

My wife is the linguist in the family, and while my personal vocabulary is above average, it’s nice to have such a simple tool, so close at hand on your Linux desktop.

But I didn’t bring it up!